Directorate D. Organization of markets in livestock products

D.2. Beef/veal, pigmeat, sheepmeat and poultry




Lelystad 22.5.2000

Jukka Niemi


Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here with you in this workshop meeting of the EUPIGCLASS project. I must say that I am very impressed to see how professional and committed group of people you are. The fact that you have built up this project deserves a great deal of respect, and naturally the ones who have organised the applications for EU funding deserve special gratitude, as they have truly worked hard for the common good.

Some of us have been meeting occasionally in the framework of the Management Committee discussing the statistical procedures and methods of pig carcass grading which obviously needed some clearing up. Then there was the idea of a statistical handbook, which was written and developed sort of beside other work.

However, the innovative minds of you did not stop at the "handbook", but you suggested that more extensive study should be done in order to verify the theories. Of course this meant that it could not be done beside everything else. Myself and my colleague Mr. Nagel from the Pigmeat Market unit were supportive for the idea, but felt that this kind of project should from the EUs side be managed by competent people and DG. As this became a clear research project, it was also clear that the funding should be applied through DG Research.

So, I must say that I am very pleased that the project was approved by the Community for co-funding and I am equally pleased to see that the project has actually started. Now I am very eager to see what the outcome and results will be and how we can learn and benefit from this work.

1. Importance of pigmeat

Let me bring to your attention some important facts about pigmeat trade and carcass grading. The total production of pigmeat in EU was 18,03 million tonnes in 1999. This had a farm gate value of 20 billion. This year the farm gate value of EU pork will possibly be 24 billion with the higher price level. Of course the retail value of this is yet much higher. The value of pigmeat being so high, it is not unimportant for the farmers, how the price they receive from the slaughterhouses, is determined.

Naturally, consumers will determine the total commercial value of pork. They ultimately decide on what price they will buy pork. What carcass grading only can do is to ensure fair payment on the basis of the commercial value of the pigs. Meat is the most valuable part of a pig carcass, so it makes sense to base the carcass classification systems on the content of meat. Of course, if the consumers find the quality of pork good and consistent, they may favour that in their purchases and total consumption may increase.

It is actually amazing how much the composition of a pig carcass can vary. The composition of the carcass can be affected by the nutrition, so it is only fair that producers are paid on based the meat content. That gives the farmers an incentive to produce the type of pigs that are most valuable to the industry, that is the pigs with higher meat content.

In EU most pigs are sold to slaughterhouses, which means that most pigs are graded by the approved methods. To me it is surprising that in the US, still a large proportion of pigs are sold on live weight basis. This may be one reason why US pigs have not been able to reach same quality as EU pigs and have not done so well in the export markets.

2. The needs of the Pigmeat market Organisation from this project

You all know very well that the original basis for the European Union lies in liberalising and enhancing trade of goods. Of course, this is not to say that the other values and principles of the EU are not important.

The Market Organisation of Pigmeat is a good example of European Union enhancing and liberalising trade. It is clear that carcass grading is an essential part of facilitating trade of pigmeat. As almost all pigs are graded according to the same system, any trader or retailer in any part of the EU can be sure that when he orders meat from a slaughterhouse or another trader, he gets exactly the quality he wanted.

Carcass grading has been a very important achievement in the pigmeat sector and it allows the Commission also to calculate comparable prices for standard quality meat for each Member State and the Community average as well. Knowing the prices is very important for proper market management.

The farmers also benefit directly as they can compare the prices and be sure that they are paid for their produce on the same basis by any slaughterhouse and in each Member State. Therefore, the farmers in different Member States are in a similar competitive position.

3. Conclusion

As a conclusion I would like to say that we in the Pigmeat market unit would like to see this project to lead into more reliable and accurate procedures and methods in carcass grading, which in no doubt will lead into better market management as the background information will be more reliable and consistent.

We also always like to think about the poor farmer, and are more than happy if methods are developed in a way, which ensures that he can get a fair payment for his hard work.

It is also quite possible that the results of this project will help us develop and improve the legislation in carcass grading.

After seeing the work plan of the project and knowing your determination and commitment, I am quite confident that this project will meet the expectations of both the Pigmeat Market Unit as well as the national needs.

I am very pleased to have seen that the homepage of this project has already been opened on the Internet. This type of open and fast way of delivering the results of the project ensures that everyone has a chance to benefit from the results without a delay. That, I feel, is very important.